Ferrari Engineers Create an All-Weather, All-Wheel-Drive Supercar

The mere existence of a 208mph Ferrari wagon confounds expectations. But the $300,000 Ferrari FF also upends the conventional approach to all-wheel drive. And when we tested it in Italy's Dolomites, we learned what cost-no-object engineering can build: the world's fastest four-seater and the first foul-weather Ferrari.

The FF's weather-conquering skills come from its patented "4RM" AWD system. Its clever configuration eliminates several weighty components, making it 50 percent lighter than a typical AWD system, a boon for performance driving. Unlike previous AWD units, the front- and rear-wheel-drive units are separate and controlled electronically, and there's no long secondary driveshaft to propel a second set of wheels. By ditching those parts and moving the car's seven-speed, dual-clutch Formula One transmission to the rear, the FF avoids the front-heavy handling imbalance of conventional AWD cars.

Garage Monster

The FF's front-mounted 12-cylinder produces 651 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, making it the most powerful street-legal Ferrari engine ever.Courtesy Ferrari

The company's pricey suite of Formula One–derived controls maximizes sensation and safety, so in nearly all driving situations, the Ferrari behaves like the rear-drive, 651-horsepower grand tourer it is. The steering-wheel-mounted manettino lever toggles among preset drive configurations--Ice/Snow, Wet, Comfort, Sport and ESC Off (which disables computerized guardian angels to let true professional drivers do their thing).

Based on those settings, the computerized traction-control system and electronic rear differential send as much power to the pavement from the 6.3-liter V12 as physical limits will allow--but no more, even if you clumsily pound the gas. And when the rear wheels finally threaten to slip, the FF's Power Transfer Unit diverts torque to either front wheel to keep you on the road.

The result? An ice-breaking supercar, and a new AWD approach that we expect to trickle down to more-affordable performance cars.

V12 Engine: 6.3 Liter
Top Speed: 208 mph
Horsepower: 651
Price Tag: $300k

Ferrari FF: Ferrari's First All-Wheel-Drive Car

Lawrence Ulrich

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